Background Information on Abila
The Decapolis was a group of ten cities (Abila, Damascus, Dion, Gerasa, Gadara, HipposPella, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis) that formed a Hellenistic or Greco-Roman confederation or league located south of the Sea of Galilee in the Transjordan. Abila lies about three miles south of the Yarmuk River (nahr el-Yarmuk), the modern border between Jordan and Syria. The only city belonging to the Decapolis located to the west of the Jordan River is Scythopolis, ancient Beth Shan.
Abila, along with other cities of the Decapolis, is mentioned in other extant ancient documents.
Joseph mentions Abila falling into the hands of Antiochus the Great (Antiquities 12:3:136). Pliny also gives mention to Abila (Natural History, 5, 74). Eusebius mentions in his Onomasticon that Abila is "twelve Roman miles from Gadara. The term "Decapolis" is a misnomer, for according to the second century A.D. geographer, Ptolemy, the Decapolis included more than ten cities (Geography 5:14:22). Ptolemy adds nine additional cities to his list: Heliopolis (Baalbak), Abila (Quailibah), Saana (Janamyn), Ina, Abila of Lysanias, Capitolias (Beit Ras), Adra, Gadora (Umm Qeis), and Samoulis.
The Name Abila
The Greco-Roman name "Abila" is preserved in the Arabic toponym (placename), Tel Abil. Abila is an adaptation of the Semitic form, Abel. Abel is the Hebrew word for: perennial stream; watercourse; canal; or brook (Deut.8:2,3,6). This is important when considering the topography of the site, for Tel Abil has a fine perennial stream that flows from its source, Ain Qwailibah, located about one kilometer south of the site. The stream runs north and then turns slightly northwest, emptying into the Yarmuk River and eventually into the Jordan River.